Hollywood used to suck. It used to be a terrible place, where the reek of urine battled constantly with the overwhelming stench of despair for ultimate supremacy. The Walk of Fame was a searing letdown. Celebrities’ names paraded past auto body shops, strip clubs, and weed-infested parking lots. Sorry about your star, Milton Berle. It adorns the entry to an S&M haberdashery. Not what you had in mind, I’m sure, but then, you did spend a good part of your career in drag, so welcome home.
Just a few years ago Friday night in Hollywood resembled the opening scenes of 28 Days Later, all empty streets and blowing newsprint, coupled with the occasional spooky noise to let you know that things were definitely not okay, and though you couldn’t quite see what lurked in the shadows, it was time to get the hell out before shit went down. You went to Hollywood not to show your friends you were cool, but to show them you liked ugly, broken things, and that muggings did not frighten you. Liking Hollywood gave you edge, but also made others wonder about your mental health when you were not around.
Hollywood has officially stopped sucking. I don’t know when this happened, but the place is awesome now. Real restaurants. Killer bars. A place you can drink while you get your hair done (I may have done this in the past, but now I can drink in the open instead of nipping delicately from my flask). There is a Papaya King. An upscale movie theater. A place that sells only waffles.
There are two hotels, one huge and corporate, and across the street, one intimate, small, gorgeous and insanely cool. Hollywood used to be a concept — a place whose reality was far outstripped by elaborate fantasy.
Hollywood is a real place now.
I think the main indicator for whether a neighborhood has stopped sucking is if you can stumble out of a bar intoxicated in the wee hours and have more than one choice of where to eat. It is also critical that the walk to this late-night eatery not threaten your life in any way, and that when you arrive, the food not be served out of a half-hewn petrol barrel or the trunk of some dude’s car. In all of these indicators, Hollywood has really turned things around. You can get a vegan burger at 1 in the morning. Whether this is desirable is not for me to judge. But it is a kindness. And it is real.
Don’t get me wrong — with improvements come the horde. The party kids, the looky-loos, the stumbling drunks, the tragically hip and the just plain tragic. Friday night is now 28 Days’ act two midpoint — if you wait too long in one place, a crowd will form, and depending on the time of night, you may find yourself surrounded by frothing, wild-eyed zombies in full Ed Hardy regalia. But it doesn’t matter, because now you can duck safely into a well-lit joint for an organic burger topped with sriracha, leaving the masses outside to stumble about, smoking their American Spirit lights and stubbing them out on the star of some kid who once acted on The Waltons.
Because as nice as Hollywood is now, a little litter never hurt anybody. A place needs to keep its edge.__________
When Aisha Tyler is not making The Talk, Archer, or XIII, she records her hit podcast Girl on Guy at The Redbury hotel in Hollywood.You may find more information about Aisha at her website titled www.aishatyler.com